Are Barilla’s Playlist Timers on Spotify the most innovative thing a CPG brand has done this year?

Tanisha Fletcher
January 25, 2024

With the rise of webinars and white papers on how to market to Gen Z or optimise TikTok ads, the pursuit of new marketing channels by big brands is seemingly relentless. As generations diverge significantly in the channels they use day to day, brands can be forgiven for trying new mediums to stay relevant.

When it’s done wrong, a new channel is plastered with untailored advertising from brands keen to gain maximum exposure with little planning or care for the nature of the channel or audience. When it’s done right, however, it can remind us how advertising can feel fresh and joyful.

Thankfully, Barilla’s Spotify playlists are the latter.

Let’s consider what makes this brand-building alchemy so perfectly pitched.

It has unique relevance and usability

While there is an obvious novelty to the concept, it’s also usable. Integrating a timer into a variety of genre-themed playlists could actually prove a useful tool, which not only enhances the experience of cooking the pasta, but also enhances the outcome of it by ensuring precise cooking times. The playlists have 2 options for preference of how well done the pasta should be for each of their core pasta shape lines. After all, only two extra minutes can mean the difference between spaghetti which is al dente (cooked through but with a little bite left) and spaghetti which is unappealingly flaccid.

It’s possible that people will come for the novelty and follow the playlists because the relevance of the tool holds water. After all, the Barilla Italia Spotify account has 279,000 followers and counting to date; novelty alone might grab attention but it doesn’t normally keep it in such a meaningful way.

It has broad appeal and likability

The genius of splitting down playlists by universal genres themed around mood is that it becomes instantly relatable without the possibility of alienating people the way that theming around specific artists or divisive music genres might do. Timeless Emotion Fusilli might provoke a different reaction if it were Metalhead Fusilli or Musical Theatre Fusilli. If you had a visceral reaction to one or the other of those concepts then hopefully you see how Barilla’s playlist themes are brilliantly and tactically pitched for broad appeal.

It’s got the watercooler effect

Did you hear about this campaign by word of mouth? I did. That free exposure is a powerful thing and requires a certain je ne sais quoi from a campaign.

What does X-factor look like here?

Barilla aren’t the first brand on Spotify but I do believe they’re one of the first to do it well. There are some other front-runners though who do more than just exist on Spotify, they present good usability or unique appeal to their demographics.


Starbucks’ playlists include the signature coffeehouse mixture of signature soft folksy indie/pop that is ubiquitous with coffee shops. It’s a subgenre mix with broad appeal, hence it being played in the bricks and mortar premises where so many demographics dwell alongside.

The campaign presumably relies on regular customers who enjoy the particular tunes they hear from the coffee shop floor wanting to bring home that in-store experience. From here they discover Starbucks’s curated mixture of playlists with a range of other more distinct genres and moods with broad appeal.

Starbucks Spotify Playlists

Above: Starbucks’ personalised playlists on Spotify


Novelty is an important strategy for creating buzz around a brand. When there is playfulness and originality in a campaign, it’s usually a good thing for socials. Some people may do it down, but creating viral talking points is an art form of its own. Who can forget the viral discovery that KFC was following 6 men called Herb and the 5 former Spice Girls on Twitter to represent Colonel Sanders’ secret blend of 11 herbs and spices? The epitome of simple, novel & sharable.

A comparable example on Spotify is American fast-food giant Wendy’s theming their playlists around their menus:

Wendy's Playlists on Spotify

Above: “Pop Punk Wendy’s” playlist on Spotify


Nike’s ‘Nike Run Club’ playlists are a great example of the power of having a viable use case. Instead of relying purely on novelty, the playlists have appeal to the core brand demographic of their Nike running shoes. Nike has been known to schedule in-person Running Clubs in towns and cities, using their stores as a meeting point.

This is another example of brand activation that chimes directly with their engaged users.

So kudos to Pulicis Italia and to Barilla for finding a potential customer need and meeting that demand in a way that feels simultaneously out-of-the-box creative and totally natural. It’s a celebration of Italian spirit, Italian graphic artists, Italian music artists, Italian marketing aficionados, an iconic Italian brand, and of course, Italy’s greatest international export: pasta.

The campaign is up there with the best of the brands on Spotify today in my opinion.

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